ABU DHABI, 24th February 2016 (WAM) — Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg welcomed closer cooperation with the European Union, which he called an essential partner for the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, according to NATO’s official website.

Addressing the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and Sub-Committee on Security and Defence on Tuesday, he noted that 90 percent of the European Union’s citizens are also citizens of NATO allies, which, he said, underscores the importance of the relationship.

Mr. Stoltenberg stressed that close dialogue between the European Union and NATO is important to allies on both sides of the Atlantic. He noted that NATO is working to enhance cooperation with the EU to address hybrid threats, and welcomed EU plans for a stronger defence industry.

Calling 2016 “a big year” for the NATO-EU relationship, Mr. Stoltenberg said that June’s European Council and the NATO Summit in July would be “key opportunities to strengthen our unity and practical cooperation even further.

“By working together, NATO and the European Union can add real value,” Stoltenberg concluded.